Tiffany Messer and her husband Keith have spent more time than preferred at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. When their twin boys Benjamin and Alex were born in June 2014, Benjamin had heterotaxy syndrome.
Heterotaxy syndrome is a rare congenital defect in which major organs are distributed abnormally within the chest and abdomen. “He had severe heart and lung defects,” says Messer, a representative of Miracle Families at Children’s Hospital in a "Coffee Break with Katherine" Facebook Live interview.
After the twins were born, Benjamin was brought to Cincinnati Children’s immediately and placed in the cardiac intensive care unit. He had four open heart surgeries over the next seven months.
In April 2015, Benjamin became extremely ill. Messer and her husband began the discussion with the Children’s medical team about having Benjamin put on the heart and lung transplant list. At the time, a transplant of this kind had never been performed at Cincinnati Children’s before. “We were very lucky to have such an incredible medical team fighting for us,” Messer said.
Benjamin went on the transplant list in June of 2015 but unfortunately passed away three weeks later.
“Pediatric care really is a whole family affair, so oftentimes I would say not only was the medical team taking care of Benjamin, but they were taking care of Keith and I,” Messer says. “[Cincinnati Children’s] really does a fantastic job of caring for the whole family.”
Cincinnati-based restaurant chain Gold Star Chili has been partnered with Children’s Hospital for several years, and about a year ago began discussing what they could do to benefit Gold Star guests, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and their supporters.
“We found a delicious way to meaningfully give back,” Gold Star marketing manager Jamie Pollard says in the same Facebook interview.
Gold Star began Milkshakes for Children’s Sake, a fundraising initiative to benefit Children’s Hospital, in August 2019.
“Any milkshake that was purchased over the last year, we donated a portion of that milkshake sale back to Children’s,” said Pollard. “Our promise to our guests is to make you feel like family and we feel like that expanded beyond our four walls.”
Gold Star sold thousands of milkshakes to their patrons over the past year and were able to make a $10,837 donation to Cincinnati Children’s on Feb. 1.
The donation was presented during the Facebook Live to Tiffany Messer and her son Alex, Benjamin’s twin brother.
“It’s an honor to have such an amazing organization right here in our community,” Pollard says. “I think if you talk to any family local to the Cincinnati area, Northern Kentucky or Indiana, they have some experience with Cincinnati Children’s. For us, to be able to let our guests help us give back--we couldn’t have done [this] without our guests--being able to impact something that is important to them, and also important to us, is pretty amazing.”
According to a release from Gold Star, the funds will be used “to support clinical and research initiatives that have the greatest potential to quickly impact pediatric medicine for children in Cincinnati and around the world.”
For more information, visit goldstarchili.com/cincinnati-childrens.